Rob Katz

Drishtee: Rural Health Franchising

One in eight people on the planet lives in an Indian village. That’s 775 million people, about half of whom live on less than $1 per day.

To Drishtee and its founder, Satyan Mishra, these numbers aren’t daunting; rather, they represent an incredible opportunity. Drishtee is franchisor that helps Indian entrepreneurs set up internet-enabled kiosks to provide basic services in their villages. (Full disclosure: Drishtee is an Acumen Fund investee; I work for Acumen Fund.)Since 2000, Drishtee’s network has grown to encompass nearly 1,900 villages, bringing goods and services to about 2 million customers.

Ann RoganThese figures are old news to Ann Rogan. Based in New Delhi, Ann has managed Drishtee’s rural health service offering over the past year. She is currently involved in the design of the company’s diagnostic-based business model, particularly on how to incorporate microfinance to ensure entrepreneur’s investment remains affordable. Ann earned her BA in International Development and English Literature from McGill University before joining Drishtee.

I heard from Ann last week, who sent along a fascinating 3-page article about her work in the rural healthcare space with Drishtee. I’ve attached it to this post; you can view the PDF here as well, under the title “Village Health Franchising: A Check-Up on the Business of Healthcare at Assam.” An excerpt:

At its core, Drishtee is a rural network, delivering need-based products and services to the rural community. The distribution network is represented by local entrepreneurs at the retail end who provide access to their community at a minimum opportunity cost. Drishtee aims to create a network of trained female Drishtee health franchisees (DHFs) to deliver health consultations, diagnostics, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and hygiene products to build the health capacity of the villagers in partnership with district-based healthcare facilities.

Personally, I’m curious to see how this works out. The Drishtee Healthcare Franchisees aren’t earning that much money, based on Ann’s figures; Jamuna, the franchisee featured in this piece, earns only Rs. 500 a month from the work. That’s less than $0.50 per day. If there aren’t other employment options in the village, then Rs. 500 is certainly better than zero, but many jobs – even in rural India – pay better than that.

Ann’s article has details on everything from the market demand to the development of the business model to the vision going forward. I’m fortunate to be in a position to keep an eye on this from my perch at Acumen Fund; I will be sure to update as we learn more, and will ask Ann to continue sending updates as she has them.